Robert G. Lian, Jr.’s practice focuses on labor and employment litigation and strategic advice.  Mr. Lian has been with Akin Gump his entire career, starting with the firm as a summer associate in 1992. Since 2008, he has served as firmwide head of Akin Gump’s labor and employment practice group.

Practice & Background

Mr. Lian represents clients in a range of industries including construction, manufacturing, petrochemical, transportation and logistics, insurance, financial services, hedge funds, private equity, and retailers. In addition to litigation, he works with clients on a range of strategic legal issues, including executive employment contracts and separations, corporate transactions, crafting and enforcement of restrictive covenants, and labor and employment issues in government contracting.

Representative Matters

Mr. Lian’s recent litigation engagements include:

  • defense of construction company in wage and hour class/collective action involving allegations of joint employer status
  • representation of financial services firm in nationwide collective action challenging the independent contractor status of sales professionals
  • prosecution of lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor on behalf of facilities operator alleging improper use of “substantial variance” prevailing wage procedures under Service Contract Act
  • defense of nationwide wage and hour collective action against oil-field services company
  • defense of lawsuit alleging that construction company client “raided” employees from key competitor
  • injunction actions against former employees of construction company who started competing business and attempted to poach clients
  • injunction action against former employee for violating non-competition agreement with health care technology company.            

Mr. Lian also represents businesses and individuals in executive contract and employment matters. Recent engagements include:

  • representation of prominent manufacturer in employment, contracting, separation and compensation of company’s top executive officers
  • representation of publicly-traded company in investigation of allegations and ultimate separation with top officer
  • representations of private equity firm in internal workplace investigations and employment issues involving portfolio company executive
  • representations of CEOs, company founders and other senior executives in hiring, separation and restrictive covenant issues.

Mr. Lian works with clients on a full range of occupational safety and health matters, including crisis management, investigations and representation before regulatory agencies in workplace accidents, disasters and fatalities, regulatory enforcement litigation and appeals, and compliance advice and strategies. Representative matters include:

  • representation of numerous clients, across a wide range of industries, including construction, petrochemical and retail, in more than 250 federal and state occupational safety and health regulatory investigations and citation actions
  • representation of services firm in willful-egregious citations and corresponding criminal investigation
  • representation of logistics company in successful trial and appeal of regulatory citations before Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
  • defense of construction contractor in case alleging willful and “egregious” violations of Occupational Safety and Health Act
  • representation of a large manufacturer in regulatory proceedings stemming from a plant explosion
  • defense of a construction contractor in OSHA proceedings and in a grand jury investigation arising out of a fatal construction accident
  • management of compliance review at large manufacturer following a workplace accident.

Mr. Lian represents companies in labor relations matters, including organizing and unfair labor practice defense, collective bargaining and labor strategy in transactions. His cases include:

  • representation of manufacturing company in union representation campaign, unfair labor practice proceedings and associated media efforts
  • representation of a petrochemical company in a union campaign that involved numerous individual and class action lawsuits, NLRB litigation, legislative hearings, regulatory complaints and investigations and boycott efforts
  • strategic advice on labor and pension considerations for a client engaged in large corporate transaction.

Awards & Accolades

  • Recognized by The Legal 500 United States 2017 and 2018 as a leader in the category of Labor & Employment
  • HR Executive LawDragon’s 2011-17 ranking of the top 100 corporate employment lawyers in the country
  • Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers (2013-2016)
  • Akin Gump’s labor and employment practice named as Law360 Employment Practice Group of the Year four times in the past seven years, including in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Speaking Engagements

  • "OSHA Respirable Silica Standard," Presentation to American Gas Association (May 1, 2017).
  • “Thorny Ethical Issues in Labor and Employment Litigation,” Washington, DC Bar (July 2016).
  • “Cover Your Assets: Drafting and Enforcing Restrictive Covenants,” Akin Gump New York Office (October 29, 2015)
  • “Emerging Wage and Hour Issues Affecting Oil and Gas Companies,” American Petroleum Labor Lawyers Association, Houston, Texas (October 1, 2015)
  • “Workplace Safety Regulatory Enforcement Update,” Akin Gump Houston Office (September 24, 2015)
  • “Managing Workplace Legal Risk in an Age of Transparency,” American Petroleum Labor Lawyers Association, Houston, Texas (May 27, 2015)
  • “Emerging Wage and Hour Issues Affecting Oil and Gas Companies,” American Petroleum Labor Lawyers Association, Houston, Texas (October 16, 2014)
  • “Ethical Issues in Labor and Employment Litigation,” Washington, DC Bar (July & September 2014).
  • “Recent Developments in Occupational Safety and Health Regulation and Litigation,” Akin Gump Webinar (September 2012)
  • ”Ethics Issues in OSHA Practice,” ABA Occupational Safety and Health Midwinter Meeting, Laguna Beach, CA (February 2012)
  • “You Can Never Say Goodbye to Former Employees: Issues and Risks of Former Employees as Witnesses in Litigation,” presented in conjunction with Washington Area Metropolitan Corporate Counsel Association (July 2011)
  • “Supreme Court Employment Law Update,” ALI-ABA Tele-seminar (June 2011)
  • Significant Occupational Safety and Health Case Decisions, ABA Occupational Safety and Health Midwinter Meeting, San Diego, CA (February 2011)
  • “Supreme Court Employment Law Update,” ALI-ABA Tele-seminar (July 2010)